December 29, 2011

The KO Digest 2011 Boxing Awards!

Ortiz kicks off a great 2011 with Berto
Simply put, 2011 was a great year for the sport of boxing. 

There were great fights, great upsets, great rounds, and one totally unforgettable knockout. It was a year that saw the return of Floyd Mayweather to boxing, the third fight in the epic Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez trilogy, and not one but two defenses of the World Middleweight Championship by Sergio Martinez. Stars like Nonito Donaire, Miguel Cotto, and Andre Ward shined bright. Future stars like James Kirkland and Gary Russell Jr made impressive statements. The year was not without it's share of controversies and bad decisions but this is boxing we're talking about. It comes with the territory and keeps things interesting. As boxing years go, 2011 was truly stellar. So as the year draws to a close, we look back at the very best the sport had to offer and present the KO Digest 2011 Boxing Year End Awards. 

KO of the Year: Floyd Mayweather KO4 Victor Ortiz
2011 KO of the Year: Hands Down!

Say what you will about the strange circumstances surrounding this infamous knockout, but the fact of the matter is that no other knockout in 2011 resonated with the general public and with boxing fans the way that Floyd Mayweather's fourth round demolition of Victor Ortiz did.

After surviving a flagrant headbutt from a frustrated Victor Ortiz in the fourth round, Floyd Mayweather waited for just the right moment when Victor Ortiz was done hugging and kissing to KO Ortiz with a truly vicious left hook, right hand combination.

Mayweather's KO got the entire sporting world talking about boxing and on top of that, it sent Victor Ortiz sprawling to the canvas where he stayed for the ten count, knocked out! The knockout of Ortiz also represented the return of Floyd Mayweather to boxing and whetted the appetites of boxing fans who still hunger for a Mayweather-Pacquiao dream fight. And sure, Nonito Donaire landed arguably the best single punch of 2011 when he leveled Fernando Montiel with a devastating left hand last February but the fact of the matter is that Montiel beat the count and resumed the fight, albeit briefly until the referee stopped it with Montiel very much on his feet. At best, call that the TKO of the Year. The KO Digest 2011 KO of the Year belongs to Mayweather KO4 Ortiz. Mayweather's knockout of Ortiz created a huge buzz and it reminded boxers all over the world to protect yourself at all times!

The KO was legal, it was brutal, and it was just what Ortiz was asking for, the 2011 KO of the Year! 

Honorable mention: Nonito Donaire TKO2 Fernando Montiel

Fight of the Year: Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto
Fight of the Year

If Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns taught us anything back in 1985, it's that boxing fans like fights that forgo the feeling out process and feature the kind of early fireworks that really grab your attention and then keep it. Victor Ortiz vs Andre Berto was just such a fight. The first round set the stage for what was to come as Ortiz dropped Berto with a vicious uppercut in the corner to kickstart the early fistic festivities. Berto survived the first round assault and then came back with a knockdown of his own in the second round by dropping Ortiz with a big right hand as Ortiz was coming forward punching.

With only two rounds in the bank, both fighters had already been down and the crowd at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut was on their feet to stay! The third, fourth, and fifth rounds were a slugfest with Ortiz owning the advantage on the ropes. In the unforgettable sixth, the fight truly earned it's Fight of the Year credentials. Andre Berto looked determined to follow the instructions of his corner to stay off the ropes and hit Ortiz in the middle of the ring, and he did just that - landing a booming right hand that sent Ortiz slamming to the canvas! Ortiz was up at "three" - but he was definitely dazed and at a critical crossroads. Would he quit like he did against Marcos Maidana or grit it out and find a way to win? Berto swarmed all over his hurt young challenger and landed another huge right hand. With only seconds left in the round and the referee apparently getting in a position to stop the fight, a sneaky right-left-left combo to the head from Ortiz sent Berto tumbling backwards and down!

Both fighters somehow survived the sixth round and despite the fact that the second half of the fight was fought at a markedly slower pace than the first half, it still featured enough great toe-to-toe action to keep the attention of boxing fans as the best overall fight in 2011. At the post fight press conference following the fight, Ortiz's manager Rolando Arellano joked, "If anyone wants to know why Victor Ortiz performed the way he did tonight, it's because Charlie Sheen is here and he gave Victor some of his tiger blood!" Performance enhancing blood? Winning! For going to war early and often in their unforgettable fight last April, Victor Ortiz W12 Andre Berto earns recognition as the KO Digest 2011 Fight of the Year.

Honorable mention: Pawel Wolak D10 Delvin Rodriguez

Round of the Year: James Kirkland-Alfredo Angulo Round 1 

1st round fireworks!
Were it not for the thrilling first round fought between James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo, Ortiz and Berto might have taken the honors in this category for their outstanding sixth round. Instead, it was Kirkland and Angulo who put on the Round of the Year in 2011 with arguably one of the best opening rounds in boxing history. Coming into this highly anticipated junior middleweight fight, James Kirkland was thought by many to be at best overrated and at worst damaged goods after suffering an embarrassing 1st round TKO loss to Nobuhiro Ishida in April. As the fight favorite, Alfredo Angulo was seen as a just the kind of durable fighter who could further expose Kirkland as a powerful but chinny puncher.

When the opening bell rang, these two warriors wasted no time going to war and they immediately grabbed the attention of everyone lucky enough to be watching the fight live in Mexico or at home on HBO. Thirty seconds into the round and only moments after HBO's Max Kellerman warned viewers not to blink, Angulo delighted his Mexican fans by dropping Kirkland with a straight right hand to the face that sent the Mandingo Warrior tumbling backwards onto the seat of his pants. It looked like it was going to be Kirkland-Ishida all over again and you could almost feel the air being sucked out of the sails of Kirkland's supporters.
Kirkland crashes in the Round of the Year
Kirkland beat the count though and with Angulo swarming all over him - and with his career in dire jeopardy - James Kirkland somehow survived the onslaught and he found the resolve to come back and drop the now punched out Perro Angulo with a powerful combination on the ropes with less than fifteen seconds left in the first round! Angulo somehow beat the count and the fight continued until the sixth round with Kirkland scoring a huge TKO win. But boxing fans will not soon forget this epic first round. It had it all. Action? Check. Drama? Check. Multiple knockdowns? Check. For three minutes during the epic opening round of Kirkland-Angulo, the boxing world held it's collective breath and enjoyed the KO Digest 2011 Round of the Year!

Honorable Mention: Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto Round 6

Upset of the Year: Orlando Salido TKO8 Juan Manuel Lopez

Salido stuns JuanMa in Puerto Rico
In 2011, the year of the upset, there was no surprise bigger than Orlando Salido's stunning 8th round TKO of Puerto Rican Pound-for-Pound star Juan Manuel Lopez. It wasn't supposed to be like this for the undefeated Lopez in 2011. Orlando Salido was supposed to be just another stepping stone for JuanMa on the road towards a fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa in a featherweight unification dream fight reminiscent of Sugar Ray Leonard against Thomas Hearns in 1981.

Instead what he got was an April shocker in Puerto Rico as the unheralded underdog Salido defeated the P4P favorite Lopez in front of his shocked hometown fans. Salido's upset win over Lopez was a competitive fight through the first four rounds, but then Salido turned the tables in his favor late in the fifth round with a brutal knockdown, courtesy of a sweet right hand shot to the chin. Lopez beat the count but he was badly hurt and he spent the sixth round on the defensive as Salido tried for the finish. In the seventh, Lopez came back and had a good round but in the eighth Salido closed the show by battering Lopez into a corner where referee Robert Ramirez waved the fight off with JuanMa badly hurt but still instinctively punching back.
Upset of the Year
It was seen as a controversial stoppage by Ramirez and some critics called it premature and some even called it unjust. But it was clear to most that Orlando Salido had done enough to earn the TKO win over JuanMa and his stunning upset win is the obvious choice as the KO Digest 2011 Upset of the Year. 

Honorable Mention: Brian Viloria TKO8 Giovani Segura 

Fighter of the Year: Andre Ward

2011 Fighter of the Year: Andre Ward
The self-proclaimed Son of God did everything in 2011 that a boxing messiah should do except for walk on water and then turn that water into wine. So instead, the supernatural super middleweight from San Francisco did the next best thing. He forgave his harshest critics and then proved them wrong with pious punching performances sure to inspire faith among even the most hardened of boxing's disbelievers.

Ward defeated the Biblically named King Arthur Abraham last May in the semifinals of the ungodly long Super 6 tournament and then wrapped up the prestigious Showtime World Boxing Classic by defeating Carl "The Cobra" Froch in December.

With the victory over Froch, Andre Ward unified the WBC and WBA versions of the super middleweight title and earned recognition as the Ring Magazine Super Middleweight Champion of the World. Ward also established himself as a rising Pound-for-Pound star in the sport of boxing and now occupies the #4 spot on the KO Digest P4P rating after having began the year at #7.

No boxer climbed higher in stature in 2011 than Andre the Giant. More than any other fighter, 2011 belonged to the Son of God and Andre Ward is the righteous choice as the KO Digest 2011 Fighter of the Year. "I've always set that out to be one of my goals to be the Fighter of the Year. Over fifteen years of grinding and toiling when nobody's around, when nobody's patting you on the back, and when are there are no light-camera-action. It's been a time long coming."

Amen Andre!

Honorable Mention: Sergio Martinez

Controversy of the Year: The Hopkins-Dawson "TKO" Debacle

What the heck just happened?
When challenger Chad Dawson tossed champion Bernard Hopkins to the canvas with a flagrant foul in the second round of their light heavyweight title "fight" last October, the controversy was only just starting. It would take months to sort itself out into something resembling a fair conclusion. While Dawson waved his glove in disgust, Hopkins grimaced on the canvas in apparent agony and never got back up. The referee ruled the fight a TKO win for Dawson and Bad Chad was declared the new WBC & RING Magazine Light Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Boxing fans screamed BS! Hopkins cried foul and Dawson acted like he had just emphatically beaten Hopkins fair & square. The WBC quickly overruled the referee's decision and declared Hopkins to still be "their" light heavyweight champion. RING Magazine waffled at a time when they should have led the way, declaring they would wait for the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) to rule on their review of the fight before deciding what to do with their belt. In December, the CSAC declared the fight to be a No Decision. This meant that Dawson had not won by TKO over Hopkins and was not the Light Heavyweight Champion according to anyone, anymore. For involving so many different parties with such varied agendas, the Hopkins-Dawson TKO Debacle is the KO Digest 2011 Controversy of the Year. 

Honorable Mention: Referee Russell Mora's performance in the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko lowblow fiasco.   

Robbery of the Year: Paul Williams W12 Erislandy Lara

In a year that featured some pretty bad judge's scorecards, the Williams-Lara robbery rises above all the rest and is the gold standard for robberies in 2011. Erislandy Lara beat the hell out of Paul Williams for twelve rounds on HBO and even a blind man could see that he won the fight with little more than an overhand left which seemed to never miss Paul Williams' face.
Judges Bennett, Whitaker, and Givens ROB Erislandy Lara!
When the judge's scores were announced, a majority decision for Paul Williams, everybody knew that the Cuban born Lara had been robbed and jobbed. It was a shameful disgrace even by boxing standards and its the obvious choice for KO Digest 2011 Robbery of the Year.  

Honorable mention: Robert Helenius W12 Dereck Chisora

Prospect of the Year: Gary Russell Jr
Prospect of the Year
Six fights, six wins.

That's how southpaw super featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr spent 2011. The highly decorated American Olympian is off to a great start as a pro and now stands undefeated at 19-0 w/ 11 KOs.

His first round KO of Heriberto Ruiz on HBO in November was impressive and eye-opening. Russell is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in boxing and he is the 2011 KO Digest Prospect of the Year. 
Honorable Mention: Edwin La Bomba Rodriguez

Comeback of the Year: Floyd Mayweather

When 2011 began, Floyd Mayweather had not fought in eight months. He was beginning to drop low or disappear all together from Pound-for-Pound lists, his rating at welterweight was in jeopardy due to inactivity, and the lasting memory of Shane Mosley rocking him in 2010 was still fresh on the minds of many. Floyd changed all that with one single fight in September 2011, a 4th round demolition of Victor Ortiz to win the WBC welterweight title. With the win, Floyd returned to the spotlight with a water-cooler KO, and he re-staked his claim to being the best Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world. At the beginning of the year, few gave Mayweather a chance against Manny Pacquiao. By year's end, few gave Pacquiao a chance against Floyd Mayweather. There was no more impressive a comeback in all of boxing in 2011.  

Honorable Mention: Erik Morales

Quote of the Year: Larry Merchant

"I wish I was 50 years younger and I'd kick your ass!" ~ Larry Merchant to Floyd Mayweather in response to Mayweather's disgraceful verbal assault against Merchant on HBO - immediately after beating Victor Ortiz. The 80 year old Merchant returned fire with fire, good for him. Mayweather wins the very unofficial Ugliest Moment of 2011.

Hit play to hear the exchange and the KO Digest 2011 Quote of the Year!

December 22, 2011

KO Digest Pound-For-Pound (P4P) Ratings Update

Andre Ward: #4 P4P

KO Digest Top 12 Pound-For-Pound

1. Floyd Mayweather (1)
2. Manny Pacquiao (2)
3. Sergio Martinez (3)
4. Andre Ward (6)
5. Juan Manuel Marquez (4)
6. Nonito Donaire (5)
7. Yuriorkis Gamboa (7)
8. Timothy Bradley (8)
9. Lucian Bute (9)
10. Miguel Cotto (11)
11. Wladimir Klitschko (12)
12. Vitali Klitschko (-)

Andre Ward is the big P4P mover following his incredibly impressive showing against Carl Froch to win the Super 6 and establish himself as the best super middleweight in the world. Ward shoots up like the rising P4P star he is from #6 to #4. The best way to climb the KO Digest P4P rankings is by beating others fighters rated P4P and that is just what Ward did, beating a fighter (Froch) that we had rated #10 P4P at the time of the Ward-Froch fight. Ward's dominating defeat of Froch moves him up two notches while Froch exits the KO Digest P4P rankings, falling just off the list from #10 and making room for Vitali Klitschko, new at #12, just below his brother Wladimir.

Vitali has been absolutely untouchable since his return to boxing in 2008 after a four year layoff. What the elder Klitschko has been able to accomplish in his comeback warrants his current P4P rating and may ultimately earn him a place in history alongside the best heavyweights of all time. Not all fans appreciate the Klitschko Brothers but their talent, longevity, and success can no longer be denied.

Vitali & Wladimir: The Brothers Klitschko

December 18, 2011

Andre Ward defrocks Carl Froch, wins The Super 6!

The Son of God Andre Ward
By Jeffrey Freeman -- In the end it was all Andre Ward as the Son of God soundly defeated Carl "The Cobra" Froch by unanimous decision Saturday night to win the Super 6 World Boxing Classic and unify the WBC & WBA versions of the super middleweight title. The 4-1 favorite Ward looked downright supernatural at times as he skillfully outboxed and out-punched the surprisingly slower-than-slow Carl Froch over twelve exciting rounds in Atlantic City. The left hook was there all night for Ward and he controlled the early part of the fight with it before mixing in his other punches including big right hands that found Froch's chin later in the contest. From the beginning, Froch looked uncharacteristically timid and it was obvious very early on that it would be a long night in the ring for him.

Despite the closer than expected scoring on two of the judge's cards, this was not a close fight in the ring or on paper. KO Digest scored the fight 118-110 in favor of Andre Ward. The three official judges returned scores of 115-113, 115-113, and a more ironically realistic 118-110 from the British judge John Keane.

After easily winning the first five rounds with quick boxing and that great left hook, Ward turned up the heat considerably in the sixth stunning Froch with you guessed it - the left hook. In the eighth round, Froch's frustration began to show as he took a backhand swipe at Andre Ward that fortunately missed. Referee Steve Smoger warned him for it and then continued doing an outstanding job of officiating the match by simply letting the combatants fight. The backhand seemed to irritate Ward though and he drilled Froch with a fierce right hand to the head just moments later.

Froch's frustration continued to show as he hit Ward after the bell to end the eighth round.

Never one to say die, Froch surprisingly had his best round of the fight in the ninth, trading on even terms with Ward to avoid what up until that point had been an apparent shutout. By winning the ninth round, Froch may have convinced Andre Ward that he wouldn't be able to finish him - so from this point on it looked less and less likely that Ward would.

Ward slays The Cobra
The fight slowed in the tenth and then got a little roughhouse in the eleventh but as he was all night - Ward was faster, busier, and more accurate than the Cobra in front of him. In the twelfth, Froch rallied with a nice combination to open the round and he won it on the KO Digest scorecard but by this point it was too little too late.

With the win, Andre Ward stays undefeated, improves to 25-0 w/ 13 KOs, and stakes his claim to the Undisputed Super Middleweight Championship of the World as well as the upper echelon of the current Pound for Pound ratings.

For Carl Froch, it was a disappointing though not entirely unexpected defeat and he falls to 28-2 w/ 20 KOs, defrocked for all the World to see. ~ "Ward is very slippery but that's boxing and he's very good at it."

Indeed, Andre Ward is very good at boxing.

You might even call him supernatural.

December 4, 2011

Redemption & Revenge: Cotto & Mares win without controversy!

Revenge for Cotto (Image Chris Farina)

By Jeffrey Freeman -- On a big weekend of boxing that featured highly anticipated rematches running simultaneously on HBO PPV and Showtime, it was sweet revenge for Miguel Cotto against Antonio Margarito and some much needed redemption for Abner Mares against Joseph Agbeko.

Defending WBA junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto defeated Antonio Margarito by 10th round TKO when it was determined by ringside physicians that Margarito's badly cut and swollen right eye was too bad of an injury for him to continue getting beaten up by Miguel Cotto after nine rounds had been completed.

Could Antonio Margarito have continued the fight and gone the distance? Probably, but cooler heads prevailed and somebody finally stepped in to protect Margarito not merely from Miguel Cotto but from himself. With the win, Cotto now has his revenge over the man many suspect used illegal hand wraps to defeat him by brutal 11th round TKO in 2008.

The rematch was a good fight, not a great one and forgive me if I suggest that something was missing this time around. For Margacheato, that something might have been the plaster in his gloves while for Cotto it might have been the satisfaction of laying Margarito out on his shield once and for all. For boxing fans, that something might have been the high drama and ensuing controversy stirred up the first time these two met. If their first fight was a modern boxing classic as was suggested at the time by HBO's Max Kellerman, the rematch was more of a modern boxing clinic. With no controversy to be found anywhere at Madison Square Garden on this night, what we were left with was a very business-like Miguel Cotto outboxing and outpunching Antonio Margarito for most of the nine rounds while Margarito did his best impression of a smirking punching bag with cornrows.

A defiant villain to the very end, the defeated Margarito never broke kayfabe as he again insulted Cotto during his post-fight interview saying through a translator, "He punches like a girl." Cotto, more stoic and obviously savoring his victory, took the high road by saying simply, "Margarito means nothing to me."

With the win, Cotto improved to 37-2 w 30 KOs while Margarito falls to 38-8 w/ 27 KOs.

On Showtime, IBF bantamweight champion Abner Mares gained a measure of much needed redemption in defeating Joseph Agbeko by a wide unanimous decision in a fight that featured no significant fouls, no bad calls by referee Lou Moret, and no drama on the scorecards. In other words, it was nothing like their foul-filled first fight. Mares kept his punches up for the majority of the night and in doing so he out-hustled Joseph Agbeko over twelve rounds despite suffering a very nasty gash over his right eye early in the fight, the result of a sharp Agbeko left jab. With blood flowing freely all night from Mares' eye, both fighters fought well throughout the contest and there were some fierce exchanges in the final two rounds of the fight.

Redemption for Mares (Image Tom Casino)
When it was over, both fighters were still standing and it was clear that Mares had done more than enough to win the fight though the unanimous scores of 118-110 from all three judges seemed a bit overgenerous to Mares. No matter the official scores, the right man had won and had done so in as uncontroversial a fashion as could possibly be expected given what took place the first time they fought under the incompetence of Russell Mora.

Mares retains his IBF bantamweight title successfully for the first time and he improved to 23-0 w/ 13 KOs while Agbeko falls to 28-4 w/ 22 KO's.

For the vanquished King Kong Agbeko, it's back to the drawing board. For IBF bantamweight champion Abner Mares, a unification fight with WBA bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno now looms. "Chemito" Moreno, making his United States coming out party a successful one, looked very sharp on the Showtime undercard in defeating Vic Darchinyan by unanimous decision in defense of his WBA "Super" title. The winner of a potential Mares-Anselmo fight would then have to be recognized as the best bantamweight in the world, particularly with the impending departure of P4P star Nonito Doniare from that division.

Officially, the Showtime Bantamweight tournament is now complete but it cannot truly be considered finished until tournament winner Abner Mares faces the highly talented Anselmo Moreno in a much needed bantamweight unification fight!